Ilenkus: “All the Work We Got to Do Felt Particularly Rewarding”

Ahead of touring this week with Swedish mathcore outfit God Mother, Mike McGrath-Bryan chats with Ilenkus frontman Josh Guyett.

2017 was a quietly busy year for Galway mathcore/sludge five-piece Ilenkus, one that saw the much-feted physical release of most recent E.P. ‘Hunger’, and consistent live activity across the country in its wake. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Guyett surveys his feelings on the year that was. “It was a good year for us but also a tough one. We did a couple of tours in support of ‘Hunger’, despite the fact that it was a pretty demanding year for us personally, so all the work we got to do with the band felt particularly rewarding.”

‘Hunger’ came in for high praise from genre blogs and listeners alike, while the attendant touring worked out well numbers-wise for the band. Guyett goes into the record’s gestation process, and how it was met. “It was a really smooth process to be honest. We wrote the whole EP as one piece over the course of a couple of months at our rehearsal space in Galway. After figuring out where how we wanted to split the tracks up, we did a bit of pre-production and headed to the studio with our buddy Aidan Cunningham from Murdock. The tracking of the instruments was done quickly and with very few overdubs, which seemed to focus the sound. We were really happy with how it turned out and the response it got from the public.”

The physical release came about via a split with a series of labels around the world: WOOOARGH, Smithsfoodgroup, and others, including the band-affiliated Feast promotion house. How did these come together and how did it work out in the end? “Basically, after pitching ‘Hunger’ to some bigger labels without much luck we decided to try to fund it by getting a bunch of labels to all collaborate together. This works out great for smaller labels because the bulk of the costs are shared. It also benefited us by widening our exposure across their locations and networks. Overall I’d say it turned out well, all the labels are very supportive and the records came out looking and sounding great.”

Some of the labels also helped out with touring internationally to support the record, a process only given pause by the aforementioned break for attendance to personal matters. “To be perfectly honest that was the plan, but with 2017 being such a tumultuous year, we didn’t get to do as much touring as we’d have liked. We got picked up by a new booking agent earlier in the year; a mad bastard called John from a deadly band called Vasa – go check them out – so working with him has been fun!”

It’s been a healthy 2017 for heavy music in Ireland, also, and Guyett is effusive about the metal scene over the past twelve months. “Destriers are great, so are Bailer, who just put out a raging new track. Horse, Unyielding Love, Partholon, Soothsayer, Coscradh, Zh0ra, Ten Ton Slug. Our pals Bitch Falcon have been doing brilliant lately, Jenova impressed me when they played in Galway, and there’s a cool sounding new band called God Alone.”

Guyett has also had a busy year as a promoter with Galway-based gig house Feast, alongside Galwegian culture impresario Shane Malone and Tribal-resident Limrocker Steve Hunt, with some massive names in during the year and their domestic duties with Ilenkus’ release. “It’s been crazy and really cool. The highlight for me was getting to put on Melt Banana and Zu in the same week. Such great bands, and it was a privilege to bring them to Galway. We also have a distro set up at all the shows these days, and have been working away on a website for the label. It’s great to see Feast progressing and I honestly don’t know where we’re going right now, but we’re going!”

The band is on tour with God Mother for the rest of this month, a tie-in with the band that supported influencers Dillinger Escape Plan’s final gig. “I had first heard God Mother a few years ago when they released a split with Artemis, a UK band that we’d toured with, so last year I reached out to them on behalf of Feast. I asked whether they had any interest in coming to Ireland and when they said they did, we figured the best way to do it would be to tour with Ilenkus. We’re really excited for these gigs, it’s their first time in Ireland and a while since we’ve done an Irish run, so we are psyched for some great shows.”

The inevitable “what next” question is met with a holding close to the chest of cards, understandable considering the aforementioned revision of plans mid last-year. “We’ll be working on new material for sure, as well as touring. Beyond that I can’t say too much right now, but keep your eyes peeled.”

God Mother: “You’re Making Music for Yourself”

Ahead of their tour of Ireland later this month, Mike McGrath-Bryan sits down with God Mother drummer Michael Dahlström to reflect on a year of milestones for the metal quintet.

Swedish five-piece God Mother are a veritable onslaught of sound and fury, not only in the immediate sonic sense, but in the array of musical reference points that come the listener’s way over the course of new album ‘Vilseledd’, out now via Party Smasher Inc. Math, grind, and hardcore inflections all make themselves blisteringly apparent amid a satisfyingly substantial mix.

Drummer Michael Dahlström gives us some insight into the band’s creative and recording processes for this LP. “Writing songs for ‘Vilseledd’ was a fairly simple process. We all had the same idea of where we were going with the album, and we wrote almost all of the songs together in the rehearsal room, which made things pretty easy arrangement-wise. We did all the recording of the album ourselves with some help of our friends: Staffan Birkedal, who helped record the drums, and Ove Noring who helped with the bass recording at Studio Ovett. Magnus Lindberg from Cult Of Luna later did the mixing and mastering.”

How did the process differ, if at all, this time around, compared to self-released recordings? “Even though we recorded it ourselves, we rented a really nice studio called Soundtrade Studios in Stockholm to record it in. That really made a huge difference to the drum sound. The drums sound huge, and great without any samples or digital reverb thanks to that really big-sounding live room. All the previous releases have been mixed by me as well, but this time we decided to have Magnus mix it, both because he is a great producer, and also to relieve ourselves from some stress.”

‘Vilseledd’ has been in the can for a few months now, and the band are fully satisfied with the result, having taken the time to live with the record over the past while. “We are really happy with how it turned out. We really gave it all we had, and think it came out pretty solid. This is probably the first time I am really 100% happy with something I´ve done creatively. We had a plan for everything from the cover art, to the songwriting, to the sequencing and production.”

The album was released via Party Smasher, Inc., the label run by the now-former members of mathcore pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Dahlström outlines how the opportunity to work with heavy music’s foremost innovators of the last two decades came to them. “Party Smasher actually first came into the picture after the whole album was already recorded and mastered. We didn’t have a record label when we started recording it, so after we finished, we emailed some labels that we liked and would like to work with. PSI was one of the first that replied. They said they really liked the album, but did not have time to release it just then. They were supposed to play in Stockholm a couple of weeks later, and we saw that they did not have a support band booked for the show, so we asked if we could play. To our surprise we got both the Stockholm and Gothenburg show. After the second show, Ben Weinman came to us backstage, said he was really impressed with our live show and that they wanted to sign us to Party Smasher. We were of course a bit surprised, but very happy and our collaboration have led to many amazing things: getting to do a full European tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as playing on their final show at Terminal 5 in New York together with Mike Patton.

With TDEP disbanding after twenty years, and doing so accompanied onstage by a living legend of leftfield music in Mike Patton, he of Faith No More and many others, the bar had to have been skyhigh for the young band heading into the latter experience. “It was a bit unreal, and totally amazing. I was very jetlagged due to the fact that we just landed the day before from Sweden, and tried to fix that by drinking a great deal of caffeine, which just increased my heartbeat so the whole thing kind of felt like a weird dream, albeit a very sweet one. Getting the opportunity to play our first New York show together with Dillinger and Mike Patton at Terminal 5 in front of 3000 people was pretty great.”

There’s been a lot of positive critical reception for the album since, specifically from specialist press such as MetalInjection and the like – is it hard to shut out those external voices when it comes to the creative or the day-to-day of the band? “Not really, I mean of course you read some of the reviews and it´s nice that people like the album, but in the end you’re making music for yourself and for the band, not for anyone else. But with that said, it also feels great to have your music being heard and appreciated by people, and all those metal blogs of course help with the PR, and making more folks aware of our existence.”

The band is on tour in Ireland this month, and Dahlström collects his thoughts heading into a fairly full-on clutch of dates, with five gigs on the agenda in little over a week. “We are super excited to play in Ireland! I personally have never been to Ireland before, but always hear good things about it, and we love to explore and play at new places. Also, getting to to it with Ilenkus and some other great Irish bands make it even more fun.” The tour serves as a warm-up for what looks to be a banner year for the band. “We are still planning a lot of the year but already have a couple of shows confirmed, we will play at Complexity Fest in Amsterdam in February, and Obscene Extreme Festival in July. We have a lot of other tours planned, but more about that soon, stay tuned to our social media for updates.”

Séamus Fogarty: “A Bit More Logical”

Having long transcended his Co. Mayo beginnings to become a somewhat-fancied folk proposition, Séamus Fogarty has seemingly quietly arrived in 2017, touring comprehensively and overcoming the obstacles of life as an independent musician in the current climate. Sophomore full-length ‘The Curious Hand’ is done, dusted and went out the gap last month. On the eve of a clutch of Irish tour dates, Fogarty explains the writing process, and the differences this time around. “My first album came together faster – I was living in Limerick in a wooden shack and didn’t have much else to do but work on music on my own, so it was very much a solo affair, lots of late nights etc. For this album, I had a bunch of tunes that I’d been wrestling with on my own for a long time but I just couldn’t nail them – so I got Leo (Abrahams, producer) involved, we got a studio and tackled some of those older songs with renewed vigour. Actually writing, I was a bit more logical about how I went about finishing lyrics, etc. And I still relied heavily on my little store of funny noises and speech recordings, etc. in the production phase.”

UK indie institution Domino are behind the album’s release, whose muscle and established status as kingmakers has helped Fogarty immensely almost by association, while he’s effusive about their willingness to work together. “I think releasing my first album on Fence Records probably helped, there’s always been a connection between the two labels. I uploaded a few tracks on to a top-secret soundcloud page and they eventually made their way to the guys at Domino, and they were into it. They’ve been incredible to deal with.” As mentioned earlier, producer Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Wild Beasts) was brought in to help bring matters together. He proved to be a far looser hand than anticipated, knowing when to hold back and how to push forward. “Great, the man knows how to make an album. He was great in the studio and then we worked together on the mix, very much a team effort – I’d do a rough mix, adding bits and pieces, and then Leo would take it from there.”

The album was launched with a gig in London’s Old Queen’s Head recently, ahead of the upcoming run of dates. Despite the usual trepidations about big events, Fogarty and the band are happy with how the night was received. “The Old Queen’s Head show was amazing… I was really nervous, and then my drummer Aram mentioned how great it was to be celebrating all the hard work, and that made me feel much better, it really felt like a celebration. So many people I hadn’t seen for so long, and lots of people I didn’t know too, which is always good”, he smiles. The video for single ‘Van Gogh’s Ear’ is a rumination on commuting and ear infections, made with the vision of director James Hankins. What was the process of coming up with and realising the concept? “The process involved us asking James what was going to happen in the video, him telling me that I’d be walking around in a naked suit with a fake set of balls visiting the dentist, me saying that I wasn’t sure about that etc. But I love James and I’m so happy with what he did for the song.”

Working with a label like Domino does mean a lot of press and all of the attendant attention – Fogarty is admirably rather pragmatic about the release and how it’s been received. “The first album got some press too, although not as much, so that part of things wasn’t so new, but I put so much work into this album, I’m really delighted that people seem to be in to it.” With a clutch of Irish dates in early November as part of a UK/IE swing in support of the album, Fogarty is buoyant, but measured, in his pre-tour thoughts. “I can’t wait… the live show is such a joy to be part of. It’s not me and a banjo, as I’ve read in some quarters, but it’s a full band with electronics etc., and some incredible dancing. Everyone should come.”

Séamus Fogarty is on tour this week and next, see dates and ticket links below. ‘The Curious Hand’ is available now physically and via digital platforms on Domino Records.

Katie Kim: “Who Knows What I’m Capable Of?”

Ahead of appearing at Cork Jazz this weekend with the Altered Hours, Katie Kim talks reverb, records and the future with Mike McGrath-Bryan.

An elusive sight on gigging bills, Waterford singer-songwriter Katie Kim carries perhaps more of a mystique for being so, weaving stark imagery and toll-taking catharsis around moody arrangements centred on Kim’s moody but quietly strong tones. Last year’s ‘Salt’ album has had time to settle after the usual whirl of activity around a launch, and after a long development period, she’s had time to consider the album. “Well, the record has been finished for a few years now. And some of the tracks, like for example ‘Day Is Coming’, were written a long time ago. Almost eight years ago. So I’ve had a lot of time with ‘Salt’. For me, a record is a body of work I live with for however long it takes me to finish, to the point where I can listen to it without picking and prodding at elements.

Until I’m happy with it. Then it’s released, and really at that point, I prefer to move on. Maybe that plays quite a bit into why I like to keep live shows to a minimum. I can’t imagine playing the same set list, or having to listen to myself night after night, year after year, I just don’t think I’d have it in me. But I suppose I’ve never tried either so… who knows what I’m capable of!”

The creative process behind the record was a sea-change for an experienced solo composer and performer, but the difference is palpable across ‘Salt’ from earlier work, opening Kim’s voice up to much broader sonic vistas. “I recorded ‘Salt’ in Guerrilla Studios, a studio run by John Murphy (Lankum/Jimmy Cake/September Girls/Woven Skull). Sonically, it was a partnership with him, where before I recorded mainly alone or at home. He’s been with Katie Kim since the beginning in some form or another, and he brought it to quite a dark place. I mean, we had to trim a lot off the endings of many songs where he went deeper and deeper into great big guttural soundscapes, because we wouldn’t be able to fit them on the vinyl otherwise. I recorded my vocals at home where I felt most comfortable, and would then take them to him, and we would record and mix everything else there. Sometimes throwing absolutely everything at it, to then strip it all back again in some cases. But recording it with him helped. He’s so easy to work with, and normally my albums aren’t a hugely collaborative process.”

The album was nominated for a Choice Prize, in a year when nine out of ten albums nominated were (nominally) independent releases. And while criticisms can be levied on music awards, incentivisation, etc., there’s no denying it placed Kim and ‘Salt’ on a wider stage, from RTÉ television and radio, to a short-lived push for the album’s CD press via Golden Discs. “Well, there’s a cash prize that I’m sure helps musicians a lot! That’s one element but I can’t get too philosophical about it, because I just think it’s nice for some musicians to have a light shone on them, if only for a moment. I can’t speak on anyone else’s behalf, but the nomination came, for me, at a time when it was nice to get the nod. I was feeling extremely low creatively after the album came out, and it helped alleviate that, secretly.”

Katie plays with the Altered Hours and Spacemen 3‘s Will Carruthers on Sunday at St. Luke’s in Cork, a venue she’s no stranger to. It’s a big night overall, and the buzz heading into it has been significant. “The venue is breathtaking. The sheer amount of reverb has to be heard to be believed, so I’m quite pleased to be back. Reverb is my closest pal, so St. Luke’s will be a highlight for me, and of course, I’m a huge Altered Hours fan, too. I became a bit drained from live shows I had been going to a few years ago, and an Altered Hours show I was at in Mayo just woke me the fuck up.

And ‘Laser Guided Melodies’ is an album I hold very dear to my heart, so meeting Will Carruthers will be something!” A Galway gig in the Roisín Dubh November 12th has also just been announced, via local collective FEAST. What’s the plan after? “Recording again. I don’t know yet what form the new songs will take, but I’m writing and figuring a few things out, so I’ll have to wait and see.”

The Altered Hours: “It’s All in the Guts”

The Altered Hours have been on a roll in the last eighteen months or so, going from the release of debut long-player In Heat/Not Sorry, to European touring, to bringing the roof down on Cork venue Gulpd Cafe on its final night (all of which you can read about in Village Magazine’s piece on the band from last month). Now, ahead of another body of work’s creation and the grind attendant to same, the band are headlining on Sunday night at Live at St. Luke’s, the biggest stage they’ve ever played at home, on the busiest night of the Cork Jazz Weekend. Cathal MacGabhann, guitarist/vocalist, discusses how the band have been about the venue and the challenge of filling a church of that size with all that noise. “We haven’t really approached this with the mindset of how big or small the venue is. Essentially we would play anywhere, but this is an interesting opportunity for us to surround ourselves with an atmosphere we are less accustomed to. We have been working on a couple of new songs which I’m excited about… the set list is looking like quite a mixed bag right now.”

The new stuff being aired is being tested out with the acoustic properties of St. Luke’s Cathedral in mind, with some numbers providing an element of dynamic to the Hour’s frenetic, speedball live shows. MacGabhann addresses the challenges in framing material for such an event. “We have played in so many different types of venues at this stage you kind of get an instinct for what might work and where. That being said, we always try something new when we can, and it’s always at its most fun when you really don’t know if it’s going to work or not. It’s all in the guts.” Tickets to the event (€20 from uticket.ie) come with a download of a new odds and sods collection curated by the band. After eight years together, there’s sure to be a few gems that have gone through the cracks. “Over the years I’ve been compiling demos, sounds, loops and other acoustic offshoots from studio sessions. I’ve always wanted to release these things intermittently, and I feel this is a good time to do this. The ‘mixtape’ is called ‘1000 Years’ and it’ll be available online for everyone in the near future.”

Waterford songwriter Katie Kim, off the back of a Choice nomination for fourth album ‘Salt’, and being a kindred soul for the band musically, is also confirmed for the bill, but the biggest surprise of all is the announcement of Spacemen 3/Spiritualised bassist and writer extraordinaire Will Carruthers in a supporting role, also. This, of course, is fresh off his autobiography last year, and a massive crowd-funding campaign for his healthcare bills. An unusual hookup for the band to say, the least. How it happened wasn’t, so much. “I met Will at a roast dinner party in Berlin (laughs).”

The band have also been busy on various side-projects: Morning Veils, one of vocalist Elaine Howley’s side-projects, recently turned up on one of Limerick skratchology don Naive Ted‘s new E.P.s, providing vocals, sounds and other noises for ‘Go Home To Your Wives’. In Howley’s absence, MacGabhann lays out the process to the best of his knowledge. “I think they went into the studio together a couple of months ago, and just went for it. I love that track… and all of Ted’s work. Big fan.” Likewise, bassist Paddy Cullen has also begun experimenting with electronic music in recent times, following a longtime engagement with drone/noise. “Patrick has always had a keen ear for electronics and over the years has used it more and more in our group. Since the early days, we were heavily involved in the 24-hour drone parties and stuff like that (in Cork). He uses electric shavers and vibrators and other trinkets on his bass & FX…I love it.”

The gig goes down at the Jazz Festival, the absolute busiest time of the year for music in Cork, where the city is teeming with casual revellers and music fans alike for hundreds of gigs in dozens of city-centre venues. MacGabhann has his highlight for the Jazz Weekend in mind already. “The Bonk (psych-rockers) & (improv jazzers) Fixity are playing the same night as us and I’m hoping we can make it down after our show. It’s a late show.” With a milestone like St. Luke’s approaching, the band already have their next few steps planned out, and while MacGabhann keeps his cards close to his chest, it’s looking like a busy few months for the Altered Hours camp. “We are recording at the moment… it might turn into an album. The next EP is enroute, along with full tour dates. And ‘1000 Years’ will see the light of day sometime soon also.”

Hope is Noise: “It’s a Simple Philosophy for Us”

From humble roots as a secondary-school jam band in Ballincollig, Co. Cork to features in UK media and EU/US touring, alt-rock/post-hardcore four-piece Hope is Noise are often slept on when the conversation of veteran Irish acts emerges. Five full-lengths and two decades in, the band maintains somewhat of a godfather status in the city by the Lee, marked by their enduring passion for creating a racket, and their similarly endless support for the local scene. Premiering this Thursday at IndieCork Film Festival, ‘Head in the Clouds: The Hope is Noise Story’ charts their course over the past twenty years, unfolding a story of friendship, patience and loyalty.

According to vocalist/guitarist Dan Breen, the secret to keeping patience with one another for that long is relatively uncomplicated. “Well, it would be a lie to say that we have never got pissed off with each other over the last 20 years but it has never reached the epic levels of hatred you hear about in other bands. In my opinion most bands usually break up because of one, or a combination of three things: money, addiction, egos. We’ve never made enough money or enjoyed worldwide acclaim as a band for any of those to become an issue (laughs). But really it’s a simple philosophy for us, as long as we still love writing and performing the songs we’ve written, Hope is Noise will stay together. The balancing of band and personal lives is also something we’ve been lucky enough to be able to make work too. As long as we can meet up once a week to practice, there will always be Hope is Noise. Y’know, it’s funny that it was being friends that initially brought the band together but it’s been the band that has been so important in keeping us friends.”

‘Head in the Clouds’ sees the band, for the first time, taken through the archives for a look at Hope is Noise to date – ample archive video, photography and posters help illustrate the band’s story alongside new interviews. Breen reflects on having these kinds of milestones to hit in the first place. “It’s hard to believe its been twenty years since we first started jamming in my bedroom. The neighbours were pretty understanding but I think we did put a crack in the ceiling of the kitchen below us with all the noise, and bouncing around going on. To be honest, to have made it this long is really testament to our perseverance. There was plenty of occasions where we should have just thrown in the towel and stopped playing, like after the Sunbeam fire in 2003 (wherein an entire newly-built rehearsal space on the city’s northside burned down). However when Hope is Noise started in 2005, it felt we had finally stumbled onto something good. Since then we’ve been Hope is Noise, for better or worse. Personally, playing music with my best friends for over twenty years has been an amazing privilege so having this documentary is a really cool way to mark this.”

Such a trawl through the years must obviously come with burdens of proof for certain stories, the reopening of old wounds, and so on, with the process and storytelling serving as motivation to gut through it. What was Breen’s favourite aspect, if any, of the production of the documentary? “Firstly, it has to be working with the young lads from Gobstar Film. Over the last two years, they have produced, directed, edited as well as cajole four lazy lads in front of a camera and get us to talk about stuff we had long forgotten. They were big fans of the band and it was this that inspired them to come on-board and make the documentary. It’s amazing what they achieved with no budget and a simple story. We had a great laugh working with them, though they should probably get community service medals for working with OAPs (laughs). Secondly, looking at the old film footage was cool too. Actually, what shocked me the most during the production was how little video footage we had. If I could go back in time, I would have definitely recorded and cataloged way more but you never think about those things as you’re going through it. We were able to locate about 10 hours of old band footage as well as photos, posters etc and combined this many hours of interviews to make a short 35 minute documentary. It’s a credit to Ger and Jim that we got it over the line. To be honest, we were conscious throughout the making of the documentary that we didn’t want it to appear like a vanity project, and we were well aware that we didn’t really have the usual ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ backstory you find in the typical music documentaries, so if the project has just ended up on my computer, serving as nothing more than a nice trip down memory lane then that would have been that. Thankfully, the lads found a story in all our ramblings and meagre digital footprint that they wanted to show to the public. Hopefully, it won’t be our Some Kind of Monster (laughs).”

Last year’s ‘Demons’ album saw the band tackle their personal dramas and thoughts on life in broader terms, including mortality, friendship and politics, and it made for the band’s most relatable record yet. Breen gets into how the record was made, and the driving force behind the next act in the Hope is Noise story. “With everything we’d recorded previously, I always think there’s roughly a million things I would change, but this record only has about one thousand (laughs). This was the first record we produced fully by ourselves, so of course, there are things we would have done differently with hindsight, but overall, we’re very proud of it. The songs on this album fit very well into our live set, and we really enjoy playing them. The album has bittersweet memories for us as it was the last thing we got to record with our long-term engineer, producer and friend, Lawrence White who sadly died about a year ago. I had already discussed the next album with him and plans were afoot about how we could record it better and more efficiently. His death really threw us for six as he was meant to be an important part of the band’s foreseeable future, but his death has also re-affirmed our desire to keep playing music for as long as we can.”

The band will be accompanying the screening of the documentary with a live gig at the Poor Relation in Cork this Thursday. A good time, then, to get Breen’s thoughts on a newly-established centre of off-kilter gigging in town. “This will be our first time playing there, so we’re really excited about that. The Poor Relation has been putting on gigs for a good while now and seem to be willing to put on more alternative and heavier ones which is always a bonus. The place is laid out in a way that reminds me of the Quad when the main bar and stage are in the same room, open-plan style. The stage looks pretty big too compared to other ones we’ve played in the past. We hope the gig goes well and that we will get to play many more there in the future.”

The band is featured prominently on the programme for the IndieCork festival this year, an important outlet for independent culture of all kinds in the city, now heading into its fifth year, co-ordinated by local arts veterans and maintained by a year-round community effort. Breen talks about the importance of Indie to the city. “Over the last six months we were wondering what we would do with the documentary when it was done. Thankfully, IndieCork gave us the chance to launch it and get it out there. I think its important that events like IndieCork continue to be organised and supported because they give a rare opportunity and platform for independent artists to showcase what they do. A similar platform should be done for independent music in the city but you would certainly need the right sponsors and organisers like they have for IndieCork. We are thrilled to be part of the festival this year and looking forward to the night and hopefully future collaborations with the event and other participants.”There is lots of talk at present about the gig/venue situation at present in Cork, which is starting to get a little better with the re-opening of PLUGD as an overall event space and venues like The Poor Relation and the Village Hall, but is still reeling from years of venue closures and retoolings. Breen gets into his feelings on the matter, and the changes that have occurred. “The closure of so many venues in Cork is really just another sign of the times. Over the last decade or so, there has been a slow accumulation of changes in the music industry that had led us to where we are. You just have to look at how, in response to the modern ways of consuming music, record companies, radio stations and promoters now package music and events. They do it to reach the widest audiences, which sadly leaves little room for ‘old-fashioned’ Cork DIY bands like us to play regularly.

”I read a newspaper article a few months back about the demise of guitar bands and the venues that would normally have profited from their popularity. Basically the long-held dominance of guitar-orientated music is in danger of becoming a niche musical genre like Jazz. The closing down of so many once prominent venues in the city is the simply the result of less people going to see local original guitar bands. Most venues and bars gear everything towards the more palpable types of acts like covers band, singer-songwriters, trad, DJs etc. Fewer places want the hassle of putting up with the racket we make. To me, the biggest result of the loss of so many venues is that there is now a distinct lack of international touring bands passing through Cork. Sure, there have been tons of big acts filling the Marquee, and other big venues, but acts that would have played venues like Sir Henry’s, Nancy Spain’s, the Savoy, the Half-Moon and the Pavilion are no longer playing here. Pat and I went to Galway to see Shellac two weeks ago, scratching our heads as to why they hadn’t been brought to Cork. The knock-on effect is that local bands are denied the opportunity to play with these bigger bands, to play to new audiences and improve their stagecraft.

”There is no really infrastructure in place here anymore for touring bands of modest size/success to make coming to Cork worth their time. All the money and effort seems to be going to cater for the bigger more financially secure acts. You can have all the convention centres you want in Cork but the loss of the city’s small and medium sized venues will have a larger impact on the local scene. I know for us it is certainly harder now to get gigs, find support bands and encourage people to attend, so we have to limit the amount of times you play Cork and make every gig counts so people may be more inclined to come back (laughs). What’s happening in Cork is indicative of what’s happening throughout the entire Irish DIY scene in general, connections that were in place over the last 15 years have fallen away as record labels finished, venues closed and promoters/bands gave up. I hope we’re in a period of transition waiting for new blood to re-energise the scene. I would agree that there have been signs of improvement lately. Along with venues like Fredz and the Crane Lane, that still give bands like us an outlet, new venues like the Poor Relation and El Fenix, and the really active metal scene with cool young bands and promoters point to signs of rejuvenation, but sadly I don’t think it will ever get back to the way it was.”

What next for Hope is Noise? “Very simple, keep writing songs and get to the studio in the coming months to record the fifth album and keep playing gigs. We are definitely not going anywhere soon (touch wood)!”

Irish Indie Label Day: “Just Getting Off Your Arse and Doing Anything is Worthy of Support”

This coming Saturday, October 14th has officially been declared Irish Indie Label Day in Ireland by a coalition of independent and DIY record labels dotted around the country. An initiative kicked off by Cork’s Penske Recordings and Sligo-based Art for Blind label, it entails a day-long record fair in Whelan’s in Dublin, featuring over a dozen indie imprints’ stalls, zines, and a special gig later in the evening to mark the occasion. For Art for Blind man Dany Guest, it’s the realisation of a long-held concept. “The idea has been floating around my head for a while, and is something me and Edel (Doherty, AFB label partner) have discussed at length over the last few years, having seen the success of things like the Indie Label Market in London. We decided to ask Penske to be involved because we know Albert so well and know he is totally on our wavelength and has been a big supporter of what we do since before we even landed in Ireland. To me the big thing that differentiates it from similar initiatives is that to us the community, integration and social aspects of the event are of equal importance to us as the commercial goal of flogging records and merch.”

Contrary to the idea of the death of the traditional record label model, a very wide spread of labels exists around the country in a number of genres, each facilitating and creating the bottom line for the development of their genre/community. Among the other labels listed alone for this event include: Little Gem (Dublin), Touch Sensitive (Belfast), Deserted Village (Galway), Lunar Disko (Dublin), Distro-y (Sligo), Box Emissions (Cork), Fort Evil Fruit (Cork), Sofia (Leitrim), Bluestack (Sligo), Rusted Rail (Galway), and Rudimentary (Belfast). Albert Twomey, founder of Penske Recordings and former hassler at Plugd Records, speaks on the process of outreach. “We contacted labels that we liked to start with & fleshed out the field as we figured everything out. There were some labels that were not interested/ available to attend & we may have missed out on others but this is all part of a learning curve I guess. Other labels/creatives have been in touch once they heard there was an opportunity to represent. There is still an opportunity for folks to get involved by contacting artforblind@gmail.com.”

Whelan’s is obviously an epicentre of music in Ireland and one that famously deals with a lot of bigger names coming through the doors – Twomey is quick to divulge if they have any hand in what went into the event at all, and what their involvement means to the enterprise. “Whelan’s were very open to getting involved from the start. It is great that we have access to the upstairs area from mid afternoon to the early hours. Not many venues would be able to facilitate a market & event for various reasons. Darren & Dave from Whelan’s have been incredibly helpful. It became evident that Dublin would be the best place to host the market/event but we do hope to replicate it in other Irish cities if everything runs smoothly & venues/labels are interested.”

As mentioned, the festival exists to shine a light on independent labels in the country in 2017, as well as highlight the challenges they face. As mentioned, Twomey runs Penske Recordings, home to The Jimmy Cake, Percolator, and Dan Walsh’s Fixity, and one imagines even with the weight of distributors Cargo behind him, that it’s still a tough game without a big PR presence. What challenges does an indie label like Penske face on the daily? “It can be a struggle, even with the support of an international distro like Cargo. They also take care of the Penske digital catalogue, and my sales rep there has been incredibly helpful. Plugd did lots of business with them, and I reckon they have the best reach and labels on their books: Constellation, Rocket Recordings, Hyperdub, etc. I guess the increasing cost of getting a record recorded, pressed & promoted are the principal challenges for Penske. Building up relationships with record store folks and distros is the easy part, even if I have the reputation of being a cranky-pants.”

As well as labels on the ground, there’ll also be zinemakers and booksellers, occupying an important space in-between slabs of wax at the fair. Rusted Rail Records man Keith “Keef” Wallace speaks of his delight at this area of DIY culture being considered specifically. “As someone who used to sweat over a hot photocopier making ‘zines at the turn of the century, I’m delighted to see the resurgence of ‘zine culture, a physical expression of something which could have been lost in the digital drowning pool. It’s all part of DIY culture, an alternative form of transmission, and that can only be a good thing to add to the conversation around underground musical culture.”

The challenges for record sales extend out to retail, also, a situation Twomey is only too familiar with via his stint with Plugd, an erstwhile hangout of musicians and creatives in Cork slated to reopen in the coming days in the city’s Roundy gig venue. The realities of peddling vinyl from this standpoint are no easier than getting records on the shelves to begin with. “Selling music can be a very challenging endeavour overall. In fact, Belfast is losing a really great store in Sick Records over the next few days. The cost of rent and rates in major cities has always been really prohibitive for small businesses. There is also lots of competition for the small pool of disposable income available to your target audience. Plugd is lucky to have a solid customer base & a very supportive arts/gig-going community. I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty at the market, to be honest, as I’ve missed the buzz of selling records & engaging face-to-face with customers.”

The post-match gig happens in the venue at 8pm, and boasts a suitably strong line-up. Guest gives us the runthrough on who’s who and their relation to the day’s endeavours. “Well, firstly, Alien She are a three-piece experimental post-punk band from Dublin. Their debut LP, ‘Feeler’ will be out on Art For Blind in November. Gross Net is the weirdo noise solo outlet of Phil Quinn (Girls Names). It’s great to have Gross Net as Art For Blind released a Gross Net cassette a few years back, and his debut LP was released by Touch Sensitive who will be joining us at the market from Belfast. Finally Girlfriend is a fledgling Dublin based garage punk/emo band who we are really looking forward to catching live.”